The Tonys: As real as it gets

SIXTH WIN: McDonald crying as she performs the song Strange Fruit as Billie Holiday in the production of Lady Day At Emerson's Bar and Grill.
The Tonys: As real as it gets

THE SINGING WOLVERINE: Host Jackman closing the show along with the winners at the 68th annual Tony Awards in New York.


    Jun 10, 2014

    The Tonys: As real as it gets


    "YOU'RE asking people to care about something that may not affect their lives, may not even affect their children's lives," Anderson Cooper said, introducing the CBS broadcast of the Tony Awards on Sunday night.

    Oh, wait; sorry. That was actually from the tail end of a 60 Minutes segment just before the Tonys about whether we should do something to intercept asteroids that might someday crash into earth.

    But, really, it sums up what has always been the issue for the Tony show. Lots and lots of people have never seen a musical or a play on Broadway. How to make them care?

    On Sunday, as often in recent years, the answer seemed to be, make them think they're at the movies.

    There was Clint Eastwood, presenting the directing awards (rather awkwardly). There was a familiar number from Aladdin, with other songs from Disney's greatest hits sampled, too. There was Rocky, slugging it out in the ring. And, of course, there was the Wolverine, Hugh Jackman, serving again as host.

    But every so often - not often enough, frankly - the broadcast offered a subtext that was actually the opposite of, "Hey, we're just like the movies".

    From Jackman's quad-straining opening number (weirdly, a homage to a scene from a film) viewers who were paying close enough attention could occasionally not help but acknowledge that live performance is hard work in a way that - sorry, Hollywood - movies are not.

    That really became clear about 75 minutes into the show when Jefferson Mays of A Gentleman's Guide To Love & Murder transformed from one character to another to another in seconds by way of introducing a knockout number from that show.

    Then Neil Patrick Harris led a performance from Hedwig And The Angry Inch that was simply exhausting to watch, in a good way.

    Yeah, yeah, making a movie can be difficult-ish - long hours of hurry up and wait; call times at 4am. But eight performances a week with no retakes beats that any day. It is real, or as real as entertainment can get.

    One other thing: The realness that is theatre seemed reflected in the acceptance speeches on Sunday, which covered a full range of emotions and rarely seemed contrived, as they sometimes do at the Oscars.

    Mark Rylance, in the night's first award, hit dignity square on the head, then Lena Hall followed immediately with extreme bubbliness.

    Audra McDonald, one of the most experienced actresses to win, was wonderfully overcome with emotion.

    She won her sixth Tony as Billie Holiday in Lady Day At Emerson's Bar & Grill, and Bryan Cranston and Harris nabbed the top acting prizes at the 68th annual Tony Awards.

    With tears streaming down her face, a trembling McDonald acknowledged her parents, family and the women who came before her.

    "I want to thank all the shoulders of the strong and brave and courageous women that I am standing on," she said. "And most of all Billie Holiday. You deserved so much more than you were given when you were on this earth."

    A Gentleman's Guide To Love & Murder took home the top musical prize and Jessie Mueller was named best actress for her starring role in Beautiful - The Carole King Musical.